Taxpayer Bill of Rights TABOR

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In 1992, Colorado voters approved amending Article X of the Colorado Constitution to restrict taxation and spending by government entities (state, local, and special districts). Known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), this amendment does the following:

  • Voters within the given jurisdictional boundaries must approve all tax increases
  • Ballot measures for tax increases can only appear on general elections, such as national or regularly scheduled local elections; they cannot appear as a special election
  • Revenue surpluses must be returned back to taxpayers, unless voters approve a ballot measure that allows the governmental entity to keep the funds.
  • Government spending can only be increased due to population growth and inflation

Since its passing, TABOR has been amended by Colorado voters.

Originally, TABOR codified what was known as the “ratchet-down effect,” which forced governmental entities to reduce their spending if the rate of inflation and population decreased. In 2005, Colorado voters approved Referendum C. The referendum loosened those restrictions by safeguarding governmental entities from decreasing their spending and establishing a cap that they could not exceed.

Voters are also able to “de-Bruce” (a reference to TABOR’s original author and advocate, Douglas Bruce) by approving a ballot measure that loosens restrictions and allow governments to exceed spending caps. Many Colorado municipalities, counties, and special districts have voted to permanently “de-Bruce” their budgets.